ROME – If you turn on the news in Italy right now, you could be forgiven for thinking you are receiving reruns from last March. Photos of COVID-only units, field hospitals under construction, exhausted medics and coffins are making headlines once again as Italy tackles a deadly second wave of COVID-19. On Wednesday, the death toll surpassed 125 in 24 hours for the first time since May, when that country was still under a draconian lockdown and seen as a harbinger of what was to come.
What’s particularly troubling about the return of COVID to Italy is that the country has done everything experts like Dr Anthony Fauci have advised. Masks in public places have been mandatory for months, social distancing is heavily enforced, nightclubs have never reopened and sports arenas are at less than a third of capacity. Children who are back in school are regularly tested and strictly socially distanced, and yet the second wave seems totally unstoppable.
While ruling out another full lockdown, Italian health officials are instead urging people to limit their own movement, even as concern grows that by urging people not to leave their homes, they are inadvertently encouraging them. private parties where the spread appears to be the worst. for the time being. Italy’s health ministry released data this week showing that 80.3% of new infections “occur at home,” while only 4.2% come from recreational activities and schools.
Italy recorded 15,199 new infections on Wednesday – nearly three times more than the worst day of the pandemic last March and a per capita rate that would equate to 90,000 new cases in a single day in the United States, which has not yet been the case. achieved.
And it is only getting worse. “Some metropolitan areas like Milan, Naples and Rome are already out of control to contain the pandemic,” said Walter Ricciardi, an infectious disease specialist who advised the Italian government which occupies the same position in Italy as the Fauci on Wednesday. “Their numbers are too high to be contained by the traditional method of tracing and testing. And as previous epidemics teach us, when you can’t contain, you have to mitigate, that is, block movement. . “
To some extent, the increase in the number of cases is also linked to Italy’s aggressive testing program, which has paved the way for quick and easy testing at all airports and private clinics, in addition to facilities state-run drive-ins. Private technicians are also making home visits for around $ 75 to perform tests in the privacy of homes, which has also contributed to the increase in the number of cases. As of Wednesday, nearly 180,000 tests were reported, which is a record for a 24-hour period.
But authorities are still very concerned that despite all best efforts to contain the spread, it simply cannot be stopped. Government experts insist that the rate of contagion among schoolchildren is not the determining factor, but young people who feel sure they won’t get very sick and insist on socializing together can be. Today, big cities like Milan, Rome and Naples have evening curfews to try to prevent young people from socializing, which appears to be contributing to the spread. Riccardi said most of the contagion that occurs in multigenerational homes comes from young people who bring it in.
But Italy is by no means alone in its battle against the second European wave of the pandemic. France, Spain and the Czech Republic have all broken records in new cases and introduced measures to mitigate the spread. The UK also saw a record number of new infections in a single day, and Ireland has shut down completely.
Germany – which largely avoided problems in Europe’s first wave – reported a shocking number of new infections, which topped 10,000 in a single day on Wednesday. Local authorities have also blamed outgoing young people or groups meeting privately for the spread. Dr Lothar Wieler told the DW Network that working out isn’t the problem. “We don’t see as many epidemics in the workplace or on public transport, but it mostly happens in the privacy, at parties and also in services and weddings,” he said. . “We shouldn’t have too many of these events.”
A very worried Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte addressed the Italian Senate on Wednesday, assuring them that there will be no repeat of the complete lockdown, which has crippled the economy in Italy and practically destroyed the sector tourism. While urging ordinary citizens to limit unnecessary travel, he has stopped putting limits on travel – for now. “We can’t use the same strategy to fight the second wave as we did in the spring,” he said. “Now we are in a different situation than in March – back then we couldn’t afford to diagnose, now we are better prepared thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of everyone.
But for many, the sacrifices that helped in the first round now seem lost, as if they had been made in vain.
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